Millbrook Resort was meant to be a challenge. Given not many players had seen the redesigned course near Arrowtown, most golfers at the New Zealand Open were meant to find it tough.

The revamped Open sees players tackle one round at Millbrook and one round at The Hills during the first two days before the final two rounds take place at The Hills this weekend.

Coming in to the event, most players didn't seem to think it mattered whether you played Millbrook or The Hills first but eight of the top nine players after the first round opened their tournament at Millbrook yesterday.

There was a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after the first round as Australians Scott Strange, Terry Pilkadaris, Jake Stirling and Andrew Dodt all shot a six-under 66 at Millbrook.

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Five players, including New Zealand's Mark Brown, were one stroke back at five-under and only Andrew Martin opened his tournament at The Hills.

The soft greens proved tricky for some and those who began their rounds early in the day were forced to negotiate bitterly cold weather.

Strange, who enjoyed a bogey-free opening round, thought the pin placements at Millbrook helped players fly up the leaderboard.

"There are a few par-fives that guys will get home on, a few short par-fours," Strange said.

With showers forecast for today, Strange said producing a good score on the first day could prove vital.

"I think it's pretty crucial to have a good score on the board. If its gets cold and wet - it's forecast not to be nice - you might have a few shots to play with," he said.

Brown, who was the best of the Kiwis after day one, also enjoyed a bogey-free start and his extra study of Millbrook earlier this week reaped dividends.

Dominic Barson, Mathew Perry and Richard Lee were the next best Kiwis at four-under in a share of 10th place, among others.

Southland's Vaughan McCall was the leading amateur after the opening round as he carded a three-under 69 at Millbrook and was in a tie for 17th with fellow New Zealanders David Klein and Nick Gillespie.

Kiwi Michael Hendry, the pre-tournament favourite, finished with an even-par 72 to be in a share of 61st, alongside Rocco Mediate.